Paulina Quintao – According to the data from the Ministry of Health, the number of all HIV registered cases since 2013 increased to 725 in 2017, and from this number 92 people have died.
The Director for Education Programs of the National Commission for Combating HIV/AIDS Timor-Leste Venancio Coelho said the increase reflects the increased number of Timorese accessing health facilities to get tested for HIV through a blood test.
He said according to the data, people living with the HIV virus can be found in all municipalities across Timor-Leste so everyone needs to contribute to rai awareness in the community about taking risks that will contribute to transmission of the HIV virus.
He added that prevention methods prescribed by the National Commission for HIV/AIDS in Timor-Leste are based on the ABC method with A meaning Abstinence for unmarried individuals from entering into sexual relations, B meaning Be Faithful for married couples to be faithful to one another, and C meaning Control Yourself, for unmarried Timorese to not get involved in risk behaviours including abstinence that refers to unmarried individuals to abstain from sexual activity, B means fidelity that refers to married couples to practice fidelity in marriage, while C means control refers to unmarried individuals to control themselves and not get involved in risk behaviours include drug use and free sex or having sex with multiple partners.
In other countries, with the ABC method, the C refers to Condom use, that is, when having sexual relations where there is a risk, a condom should be used as the most efficient way to prevent contracting the HIV virus.
Coelho informed that Timor-Leste had adopted the international method of ABC for many years, A for Abstinence, B for Be Faithful, and C for Condom, but the number of HIV cases was nonetheless increasing because condom use does not offer 100% guaranteed against HIV infection.
"The commission does not say that in Timor-Leste we cannot talk about condom use for the prevention of HIV. We only say that there cannot be condom promotion in public spaces, because not everyone understands about condoms. People who do not understand it will use it as an alternative to spread free sexual relations," he added during an activity on HIV prevention in Auhun sub-village, in the Suku of Becora, in Dili.
He said that despite the national commission not talking about condom use to the public that organizations providing HIV/AIDS education to at-risk groups continue to promote its use including to commercial sex workers and those already affected by the virus.
According to data shared, from the 725-people infected with the HIV virus, identified between 2003-2017, 92-people have died with the remaining 633-people still living. From the 633-people with HIV, 285-people are currently undertaking treatment while the rest has not sought treatment.
The President of the Timor-Leste Red Cross (CVTL) Jose Pereira Conceicao appreciates the efforts of the national commission to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and prevention in the communities, especially among youths.
"We cannot say the commission is responsible for reducing the incidence of new cases, but the commission provides information. It is us to each individual to be responsible for prevention," he said.
He added there is some controversy when talking about HIV prevention in Timor-Leste, especially in relation to condoms as part of the method, but it is important that everyone sits together to talk about it because the main objective is to reduce the transmission of the virus.
He also urged the youth to remain vigilant of the types of relationships they have because some are negative and can lead to greater risk of infection with the virus.
Meanwhile youth with initials GO said she knows that HIV is a virus that can ruin a person's immune system and when a person is with the virus, she or he will easily develop other chronic diseases.
She said based on information she has received, HIV is transmitted through blood, sexual relations, and through unsafe needle use. "I know I should use a condom if having sexual relations with other people," she said.
According to data from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2016, of all women and men aged 15-49 surveyed, only 8% of women and 15% of men have a comprehensive knowledge about HIV.